Updated: Sep 28, 2020
This past weekend, the Tacoma Ocean Fest featured a powerful line-up of artists in celebration of World Ocean Day. As an invited guest of the festival, I thought it was a powerful opportunity to reflect on my family's relationship to the Ocean.
I thought about growing up on the Salishan | the Salish Sea and also momentarily called the Puget Sound | and how frequently our family would spend the weekend out fishing, clamming, & crabbing. And, by family I mean every CHamoru family (or at least that's how it felt) between Tsa-kole-chy | Whidbey Island | and Puyallup Territory | Tacoma | would meet up with us on the beach. At the end of the day, we would return to my nåna and påpa's house to process the catch, split it up among the families, cook and eat. People still talk about my påpa's legendary clam chowder.
What I didn't realize at the time was that this was an indigenous Matao practice that my family carries with us. Embedded within it are beliefs about family, interconnectedness, the sacredness of the land and waters, sharing, reciprocity, and inafa'maolek (making things good for everyone). This practice of fåkkai | dividing up the catch | would have been practiced in my ancestral village of Tomhom | Tumon | and my family can not and does not practice this there because of the United State's ongoing attack against Matao/CHamoru people that manifests itself as land & cultural dispossession.
I was reflecting on how militarization, settler colonization, and displacement all impact my genealogical family, as well as the Native people's of Coast Salish territories, and the Black and non-Black Indigenous people who now call this place our home. I was reflecting on the interconnectedness of our struggles and liberation.
My current performance research project, MALI'E' draws it's name from a practice that my elders remember being practiced during these communal fishing events. Also called kantan chamorrita, mali'e | literally translated as 'to have been seen' | is a kind of call-and-response game of throwing improvised verses back and forth, where the winner exemplifies exceptional skill in wordplay, metaphor, allegory, language, meter, and rhyme.
I wanted to bring life to this practice by moving in call-and-response to the words of one of our people's fierce water protectors, Maria Hernandez, a mother and community organizer with Prutehi Litekyan, Save Ritidian. She recently gave a very powerful and concise talk on the impacts of militarization on our people at a recent trans-national webinar on cancelling RIMPAC. In thinking about how to respond to militarization, I was reminded of the teachings and work of a dear friend and elder, Squi qui Ray Williams. He has often talked about remembering our Unity with Creation, and human's need to be in balance with the four elements.
This dance is a prayer for inafa'maolek...
An end to militarization of our neighborhoods and homelands.
An end to systems built on ongoing murder, dispossession, enslavement, and displacement.
An end to all attacks on our people's Liberation.
The return of safety for Black and Native communities.
The return of our autonomy and self-determination.
The return of our spiritual, cultural, and material resources.
The re-emergence peace and balance on this planet.
Na'lå'la' i lina'la'